"I Wanna Testify" - Phil Collins talks about his new album. Electronic Press Kit transcribed by Alan Hewitt.
I didn't come from any musical... there was no music in our family at all. It just happened that I was given a drum when I was three; my uncles made me a drum kit when I was five because I showed a lot of interest in this drum when I was three and music from that point on was the only thing I wanted to do.
From the age of five, I have never wanted to be anything else - that's why my uncles had made me that drum kit I've never wanted to be a train driver or a racing driver, or an astronaut, you know? I have never wanted to be anything else, I just wanted to be a drummer and that's really what I have been all my life. I have just gone out from that position and just visited other places, like singing; like song writing, and obviously as you do this, some of those things become more important than just visiting, but I still see it as I live behind the drums and just visit other places.
I didn't look to me hat it has been a bit more than six years since the last Phil Collins record, and people were saying that well... this is your first album in six years but that's not true - Tarzan; the Big Band , it seems that it doesn't count but to me it counts because I'm just carrying on working and doing things but I start to see the positive side of that. First album in six years maybe it is an opportunity for people to say; "I wonder what he's doing now? I wonder if there's any difference? I wonder if there's a change?" I can't really say what happened it 's still me; it's just me in a different way, I think. I mean from the moment Wake Up Call starts, its very different for me, I hear that thing I've never sounded like that before.
There are just new touches in here. I mean, if you were to take and skim the songs down to just me and a piano, maybe some of them are far more away in style from the ones I was doing before but the way I was working this time, you know ; trying this; trying that; well that's better; that's not - I think it's a kind of new mood.
The album was written over a couple of years, I suppose. I was on tour with Both Sides and I took a keyboard and sequencer with me and I did a lot of writing - little bits - only little bits 16" bits; 32" bits. I saved them on to disc and didn't know what to do with them. And then I did Tarzan and then Disney asked me to do another film and from that point I thought I had better get stuck in to this computer world, because the way film music is... they will always ask you to do it shorter; to hear it shorter - can you hear it faster? Can you hear it without that verse? Can you condense it down in three seconds? You know... So I thought now was the time to get better acquainted with the computer.
Using the computer I was obviously able to do far more finished things than I had ever done before; we transferred these bits that I had written in '94 and they became Wake Up Call; Testify; It's Not Too Late. These bits developed into songs. I was working with Rob Cavallo on I Can't Stop Loving You and The Least You Can Do and I played him the demos. I said I would just like you to get your feed back on it because I have been given this strong impression but I need a change to bring it into the 21st century. He came back the next day and said; "guys, listen to this..." and he put Wake Up Call on and said..." This is great, man- you don't wanna alter this apart from a little bit of guitar; a little bit of drums, maybe..." And I said..."Thank you, Thank God this man gets it! Do you want to do the album?" And he said.. "I'd love to do the album..." So I found my producer; he understood what I wanted to do and that was the most important thing.
It is important in a way to understand the way I write because, you know... I don't sit down and say I know what I am going to do; I'm going to write a love song for Orianne you know. I don't sit down and write it. I have the music or what is gradually becoming a song and... I am on my own . I work on my own; I don't have anybody hanging around or operating equipment. I do it myself, so I am just on my own in my studio and I push play on a recorder and I sing, and what you hear lyrically is what I sing. Sometimes a whole a whole verse; a whole chorus or a whole song comes out - In The Air Tonight was totally improvised. I thought well.. that's an interesting way to do it. I was very involved emotionally inside me, but it came out. I have always written like that, you know; sometimes you get songs that are really stubborn and you sit down and say OK; I've got one line; I've got to write the rest. Other times you have a whole verse; a whole chorus; something would suggest the mood of the music; or just as you approach it ; I will write itself. Testify... I wrote those lyrics just... I didn't write them; I just sang them; you know and it was obvious what it was about. But I didn't actually physically sit down and say..."I'm gonna write this..." which ...it kind of makes you stronger in a way because it means it is inside you and it comes out
I am very happy, you know. I have got a great family life; my kids are getting older; I have got four kids; Nicholas who is actually wonderful; and then Lily is thirteen; Joely is thirty now, believe it or not, and Simon is twenty five... twenty six in two days' time. You know, it's a lovely place to be actually. I am quite happy with being me at my time of life; in this place. I live with the person I love and it does reflect in the music. Yeah, these are very optimistic songs; very happy songs which is not what people expect from me. My albums have always been pretty autobiographical to a larger extent. In 1994 I was on tour with Both Sides, and I was stuck in hotel rooms for a lot of the tour because of the tabloid press. Basically, I have gone against what people thought of me; you know the perfect nice guy; family man; and my marriage was just breaking up, and I have gone off with somebody else, and worst of all I have faxed for divorce, which is all rubbish, this DIDN'T happen.
It was hairy; Orianne's father and grandfather were dying of cancer; and they had journalists in their back garden getting interviews about... She just met me and fell in love with me and me with her, and she didn't know all this stuff existed, she was just happy - I mean unhappy about her father and grandfather. Suddenly all of those people were asking all those questions; intruding into their lives. Jill and Lily in England, they would find them at school; camping in the garden; in their house in England. So, it was unpleasant for everybody, and in the end I just kind of felt... well if this is where I have arrived at; after this amount of time, then we have had enough...I don't want to do this anymore.
At the end of the Both Sides tour I took six months off and built a home with Orianne in Switzerland. I went out everyday and bought knives and forks ; table cloths; sheets towels; I didn't have anything, you know.
|And eventually it all settled down to the point now that when Orianne and I go out walking in London, nobody cares; photographers are taking photographs of somebody else, and that's fine by me.|
Los Angeles is where I tend to spend more time than anywhere else in the States. I mean, Disney are here and say, for the last six years I've been coming here every month for a week or every couple of months for ten days or so to work on Tarzan; the new Disney film that I am doing and various other things because my daughter Lily lives in LA and my daughter Joely, my eldest daughter; lives in Vancouver, so we are on the same coast, it's an opportunity for a family get together.
We have been rehearsing for this Toyota gig quite hard; I mean its; frustrating because you want to rehearse more but you know your voice can't do it. My voice held up pretty well actually. We did the whole show twice every day and that is a lot to demand of a voice that hasn't actually been singing and it got strong. It just got stronger throughout the rehearsal days but it has been busy. I have to say it has been busy; but the alternative of not doing it is not really on the cards because I wan to help the album as much as I can.
I Can't Stop Loving You is the cover on the album; it is a cover song. Leo Sayer recorded it and Billy Nicholls wrote it. I heard it by accident. I was doing some skiing training in the health club of a hotel and it came on over the speakers and I thought well... that's a good song. I was sure Leo Sayer would be a little happy because you know, when you do a cover version, the original version starts getting played again; so it gets a new life. It's a good song.
Here we are... I'm in New York and Tokyo is behind me. What a funny world we live in! When you try to make a single the obvious thing to do is to make a video. I find this has become better as much as you are trying to find ideas that fix the song. In the old days, it used to be a little more easier. I have just come out with some great comic ideas and it would work, you know... It would stick out against all the conceptual ideas that go on. We never did that with videos in Genesis in the old days...just a funny idea. So, I examined a few concepts and the one that appeared to be the most interesting was the camera casing. It was really my music in the distance ; how much it goes round the world; influences people from every different culture , and the way I would describe that is sort of going into people's headphones and coming out in another country with someone holding a Walkman or something; it's kind of a blast.
That idea appealed to me more than the other ideas I have had. It was very difficult to shoot because we had to be in all these different countries in the world, and it is impossible to go there so... I left the director to work it out and we shot it on the Paramount Studios lot, dressed the sets as they would look like in he other countries, and as we sit here right now, I haven't seen the finished product but it felt good on the night, or on the day, I mean... it was a long day but I think it will turn out OK.
Driving Me Crazy is a song about the little demons that there are inside all of us; the little devils who are used to saying something; like gremlins, you know... "I share your darkest thoughts but I don't share the consequences of them...I will make you do this and I will enjoy watching you do it...." When you are writing some of these things; you think: "I could see this... I could imagine this..." and all that song is about the fact that I can imagine it but no one mentioned it! You know, I live in Switzerland and I wrote my music in a nice place and I am just thrown out into this busy hive of activity so I take advice on what people think would be the best flagship for the record - this song can be played on the radio; this one can't be played on the radio . In my day a good song would be played on the radio and a bad one wasn't. I mean, I find myself rebelling; resisting this... all these changes that happened, I don't think they are for the better, you know. I mean,. When I first came to America with Genesis in 1492, we used to go to radio stations and they would say bring some of your records here; bring some records you want to play. And I would go down there with my albums... well.. not my albums , but records I liked. I played Frank Zappa for fifteen minutes then I played a bit of this; a bit of that, and then we said we've go to go, got to go and do a sound check - really? Oh it's a shame... But now it is like... in and bang; there's someone wearing a suit and tie and then you go - "sorry I don't have to leave...." And they say..."Oh, yes you do..." It's a different world now.
I won't, I shouldn't and I can't write a song that fixes into this. You know, I write what I write and the best song for me is a song that is totally unpractical for a radio station, so I have to take advice and if they come back with the easy way out, which I could see the easy way out like the Phil Collins ballad... I mean everybody that hears this for the first time; it's another Phil Collins album with another Phil Collins ballad opposed to the fresher sounding stuff .
Any of hose songs on the record I love, they're all here because it's my record, and I wouldn't put anything on it that I didn't like or didn't feel as a great representation of what I write. But just sometimes people are a bit more adventurous but they are trapped by the formats of radio.
The decision not to tour was thrust upon me it was difficult but I am not unhappy about it. I mean, two years ago I was recording Can't Stop Loving You and The Least You Can Do and during that week of recording - at the end of it; I lost a lot of my hearing in this (left) ear and I thought it would come back; it was like water in the ear. I thought it would be alright later, but it wasn't. It is one of those unfortunate things that hit people at random; suddenly. It has got nothing to do with age; music loudness... It's a viral infection that hits the cells of the nerves to the brain, and if you are lucky those cells regenerate; if you're not they don't. So far I have been unlucky.
It's not a problem at all in day to day life, but if it is a noisy environment I can't quite pick up conversations with this ear, I tend to say it like my mother - what's that you say? The last guy I saw gave me two tests; an audiogram test which was like a whistle, and also a comprehension test which was like, say the word "Hot Dog". This ear (right) came out normal and this ear (left) was an undefined sound. He said that's your problem; you have got 32% comprehension and that's why I cant give you a hearing aid because you would just amply a crappy sound. I asked him what about going on tour, what would you say? And he said... well I would suggest that you don't . You don't need to and you could run the risk of doing more damage to your ear, and if the other one gives out you are going to be messed up completely. So I kind of took his advice. I've got a new son and I have got new opportunities to do things like writing at home, and I wasn't very willing to live in hotel rooms for the next two or three years on tour. To me there's no contest, you know.
Seriously, I am quite adjusted to the fact that my golden period; the '80's and '90's has turned off. Now I will do other things. I mean, I'm doing things outside that marketplace which I don't really think I fit into anyway. In the long term; I am going to be very involved with the Tarzan musical. I am writing the songs for that and keeping an eye on the adaptation of the songs in the musical theatre , to that kind of environment. That's professional.
And personal, I am going to watch my son grow up and with Orianne we plan to have more children and keep on enjoying life. As far as I am concerned it is like this door to another world away from music and now I am going to go in and explore that world. After having explored for a few years I might come back out and go into the other door which is making another album or taking the Big Band out again; maybe do a bit more acting. I don't know. I don't want to do things that I don't want to do; things that intrude on my personal life. My real life is the most important thing to me and fortunately the things that I am being asked to do fit quite well into my real life, because I can write at home. The big thing to take out of the picture is the touring. That is a big dent in your life ... I mean, a world tour is two years and that's what I will end up doing if I do a tour.
If I am driven in as much as I love what I do, its just can I do this? How exciting! I am being asked to do this. It literally is that. There is no ambition; no blind ambition it is not being driven in a sort of ... you know... I'm lying awake and ...I need to work... I need to work... It's not like that. It's just I am being asked to do great things or see if I can do them. I still keep it parallel to my real life. My life now is very important to me and my family life and even if Joely or Simon or Lily would say ring me and say... "I am going to be in Europe in two weeks, are you going to be there?" and I can say "Yeah" as opposed to what it used to be like when I would say... "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm going to be in Tokyo..." what a shame.
There you have it folks, the thoughts of an obviously contented Mr Collins. My thanks to Marc Levene at Warner Music Europe for providing the EPK's from which this transcript has been taken.